3 Stars Out Of 5
Start in Section 2 and be careful in Section 1
December 12, 2014
"It's true. A lot of it's true. Smothers Brothers
This book is an interesting dichotomy for me. I'd like to recommend the second half of the book (sections 2 and 3) and only recommend the first section if you're really willing to read it carefully and wrestle with what's being said. It might even be better to read the first section, at least, in a group and not by yourself.
I'm glad you asked. This book, while far superior in content to other books by contemporary celebrity pastors, still creates some problems that have to be unraveled and contextualized before they can be understood. In the first section I found phrases and theology that are misleading and sometimes wrong. It was enough to make me not want to finish the book, but I'm glad I did finish the book. In the second half his theology gets back on track and is worth the read, but unfortunately he doesn't retract the first half of the book.
The primary contention for me is the place of Law and Grace in the life of a Christian. The Law shows us our sin, but it cannot save us. The Grace of Jesus Christ brings us salvation and throws off the burden of the Law, even though we still use the Law as a guide to right living. Idleman seems to want it both ways in the first section. He wants to turn fans who pay lip service to Christ into followers who are committed to Christ by using the Law. In other words, you must be more obedient in order to be a follower of Christ rather than believe God and trust in His grace and mercy. A follower of Christ will be obedient, but obedience does not make you a follower.
There's a good example in chapter 2. Idleman writes, "So in case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christ, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing." What Idleman sets up here is a judgmental God who expects you to accomplish certain goals prior to Him showing you grace and mercy.
If God is merciful and loving, if "God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die for us" (John 3:16) and "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) and if Jesus really said, from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34) then the exact opposite of Idleman's statement is true. There is no repentance without forgiveness (Romans 2:4). There is no surrender without salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). There is no death without life (Galatians 2:20). There is no committing without believing (Galatians 5:25, Romans 8:5, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
Idleman does go from here to talk about denying ourselves to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24), but the impetus is through the Law and not Grace.
The second half of the book is a different story.
In the second half and especially in the last three chapters, Idleman brings us to a critical question; if Christ is willing to suffer what he suffered to save us from sin, death and hell because he loves us so much, how can we not respond in kind?
The heart of this book is our response to Jesus. A half-hearted response is as good as no response. Putting Jesus off is as good as saying never. The constant plea from Christ is today, don't look back, follow me, now and Idleman does a great job of bringing this to light"in the second half of the book.
In the first half of the book there's a lot of phrasing that puts the emphasis on us and then has to be reexplained in the light God's grace. One in particular that throws me is the "fully committed Christian." Even as a Christian I'm still a sinner and I can't in good conscience call myself fully committed to Christ. I'm only mostly committed, and that might be a stretch, but by God's grace I'm growing more committed.
What we see in the second half of the book is that plea for greater commitment. Christ gave all for you, how can we give any less? It's a goal, not a starting point and Idleman gets to this in the second half.
Idleman uses the story of Matthew as an example. When Jesus calls Matthew to follow him, Matthew gets up and leaves everything behind to follow him. Contrast that with the three men in Luke 9 who want to follow Jesus, but we're not sure if they do. Matthew, when he got up to follow Christ, was not instantly a fully committed follower. He stumbled and sinned. He asked stupid questions and didn't understand what Jesus meant when Jesus predicted his own death. Still, Matthew continued to follow Jesus. Growing and learning and never looking back.
That's what it means to follow Christ. So, if I had my way, and it's probably good that I don't, I would say we're followers of Christ looking forward to that day when we are fully in Christ. Until then, we learn to love God through His Word and through the calling of the Holy Spirit root out those things in our lives that keep us from following completely.
The question remains valid; are you a follower of Christ, or just cheering him on from the sidelines?
Have you read Not A Fan? What did you think?